Legault government has long list of promises to fulfil with first budget today

QUEBEC — After five months in power, Francois Legault's Coalition Avenir Quebec government will lay out its true priorities today as it tables its first budget.

Legault has raised expectations with expensive promises since his party won the Oct. 1 provincial election, and he insists all the commitments will be respected.

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He has promised to put money back in taxpayers' wallets, reducing the fiscal burden by $1.7 billion over five years while maintaining services to the public.

Finance Minister Eric Girard has a comfortable cushion to work with, having inherited a surplus from the outgoing Liberal government that is pegged at $1.7 billion by the government and $4.6 billion by an independent research institute. Unemployment is low and equalization payments from Ottawa are expected to rise to $13 billion this year.

Girard, a former executive with the National Bank, is cautious by nature, and if his December economic update is any indication, the budget will steer clear of attention-grabbing measures.

He has a long list of promises to navigate, including increased family allowances, a pre-kindergarten program for four-year-olds, an extra hour of school for sport and arts activities, the hiring of more nurses and an annual injection of $200 million into home care for the elderly.

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